Q: What’s So Awesome About Libraries?

A: According to Jessamyn West (the self-described “most famous librarian on the Internet” - well, maybe neck and neck with Nancy Pearl), a lot!
West was very energetic; this is the least blurred picture of her presentation.
West was very energetic; this is the least blurred picture of her presentation.
West, who is a big champion of library technology and civil liberties, gave the talk last night at Central during a thank you celebration the Friends of the Somerville Public Library threw for its volunteers. She is also an advocate of bridging the digital divide, especially in rural communities. The talk focused on the need for libraries - now more than ever. She broke down five amazing things about public libraries: 1) The Library Bill of Rights, which turned 75 this month. This document supports the right to inquiry, access and advocacy and reminds us that libraries fight censorship and promotes inclusivity. 2) The concepts of fair use and public domain. Thanks to winning “good” copyright-related lawsuits like those involving the Wiley Books, YouTube vs. Viacom, HathiTrust and Google Books, libraries and librarians have a wealth of images and information at their fingertips online. Makes sharing so much easier. 3) The ability for creators to label their works as reuseable. Through Creative Commons, Digital Public Library of America, Europeana and Open Library (at which West just began working after leaving MetaFilter), anyone can find, share and use items legally. There’s also momentum toward loosening use restrictions on orphan works as well, which could free up even more works. 4) The libraries everywhere movement, such as Little Free Libraries. (Here are the ones in and near Somerville.) Although West acknowledges they aren’t really libraries - there’s no little librarian in there and there could be bugs! - it encourages people to become content creators and distributors. 5) Special lending collections. West pointed to Portland ME’s ukulele collection, Windsor, VT’s seed library and Santa Monica’s “human” library as ways that libraries are extending their mission and making themselves more exciting.
Snacks!
Snacks!
West praised the collaborative nature of public libraries and librarians, noting that she enjoys “stealing” ideas from other libraries, we, as professionals, encourage that. Libraries love to share, so take advantage of that! NOTE: Here are her slides from the talk.

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